The International Spanish Academies (ISA) project is an international organization with members from all over the world, including Europe, Canada and the U.S., that recognizes schools that are promoting Spanish language and have high levels of proficiency and academics in the language, according to one of Park City School District's Dual Immersion coordinators, Ellie Gallagher.
"Sonia Cabrerizo, our regional representative from the Spanish Ministry of Education, will sign an agreement that makes Parley's Park Elementary's Dual Immersion program an ISA program, which will bring the students many benefits," Gallagher said.
Those benefits include academic certification upon graduation of the program when students leave Parley's as well as when they graduate from high school. Students will also receive qualified teachers from Spain to teach them the language and culture.
Parley's Park Elementary School principal David Gomez said they have an understanding with Spain through the Utah State Office of Education. State Dual Immersion Coordinator Ofelia Wade helps gather teachers that are qualified in Spain, and via the state office, they conduct interviews via Skype or however they can.
"We went through the process last summer, and that is how we hired Marta Villalba," Gomez said. "We also have two other great [Dual Immersion] teachers that came to us through this process, including Jose Ardanaz and Gemma Arro."
Villalba is a fifth-grade teacher, Arro teaches third grade and Ardanaz teaches second-graders. Gomez said having teachers from Spain really helps not only to teach students the language but also the culture. He said he thinks that has contributed to making the Dual Immersion program at Parley's exemplary enough to transition into an ISA program.
Gallagher said the criteria for qualification are that the school has to have the program up through third grade, guest speakers from Spain must visit the school, academic subjects like math must be taught in Spanish language and the program must produce students with high levels of proficiency.
The American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) provides a test called ACTFL's Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages, or AAPPL. Gallagher said it tests students in four areas, and Parley's current fifth-graders tested and all met the benchmarks for high levels of proficiency.
McPolin Elementary School has not been recognized by ISA only because their program has not met the first criteria yet: Dual Immersion up through third grade. Gallagher said the program is only up through second grade right now, but next year, the school will be able to begin assessing their levels of proficiency in order to apply to become an ISA school.
"We won't be able to apply for McPolin until the start of their fourth-grade year, because you have to have those assessment results," Gallagher said. "It took us a couple of years to get into ISA with Parley's, because we had to meet and show proficiency. It will take us a little time, but we will apply for McPolin down the road."
She also mentioned that like the situation with the two Spanish language Dual Immersion programs, Trailside Elementary School's French Dual Immersion program received the Label Education from France just as the program was beginning at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School.
Gomez attributes the recognition of the Dual Immersion programs in the district to both the wants and needs the community have shown for not just Spanish but French as well, and that is what he said fuels the programs.
"We are constantly changing and trying to make the program better each year," Gomez said. "I think it's another credit to why it just keeps getting better and better, because we are will to make those changes that we see we need to."
For more information on the Dual Immersion programs in the district, contact coordinator Ellie Gallagher at 435-659-4324 or Judy Tukuafu at 435-731-0201.